"O LORD, how long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us from violence? Why do you make me see such trouble? How can you stand to look on such wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are all around me, and there is fighting and quarreling everywhere" (Habakkuk 1:2-3 GNT).
The news came in on Sunday in an all-too-familiar pattern. Shots fired in Orlando. A crowded nightclub. Many injured. Dozens killed. A high-powered weapon. Gunman slain. Terrorism suspected, then confirmed.
In the days since those events, we've been learning more about the victims, and we mourn for them. We pray for the grieving families. But there are other emotions swirling around. We are angry.
In our struggle to make sense of this, we reach for easy explanations. We want to blame Islam. We want to blame guns. In our search for justice, it's all too easy to blame those whom we've labeled as our enemies.
And we are afraid. Terrorism has done its wicked work, terrifying us. Where and when will the next attack be? Our sense of safety has been shattered. We can't walk anywhere, drive anywhere, take a plane or train, or enter any public building without worrying about the violence that might be visited upon us.
This causes a crisis of faith for some of us. How could God let this happen? Why is God letting the world slide into such chaos? Of course we aren't the first to ask these questions. We join an impressive band of biblical writers pounding on the doors of heaven, demanding answers.
But God has already given us our best weapon against terror.
"There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear" (1 John 4:18a GNT). Above the frenzy of voices calling for hatred and revenge, we need to find a uniquely biblical response. Love. This is the defining characteristic of those who follow Jesus (John 13:35). It is both the summary statement of God's Law and the "new commandment" of Christ (Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34). It is more important than religious activities or ecstasies (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
When John talks about "perfect" love, he's using a word for maturity. This is grown-up stuff, not puppy love. The Bible calls us into a love that goes far beyond "I just want everyone to feel good." It's a robust love made stronger by the very crises that threaten it. This love extends even to enemies (Matthew 5:44), overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21). It's a love that leads to service, understanding, perhaps sacrifice.
The world is indeed a dangerous place, and that is often a painful and nerve-wracking reality. We lament the suffering of those in Orlando, as well as other victims of violence. But our fear is banished as we experience the fullness of God's love. Our hatred melts as God's love takes hold of us. Freed from those knee-jerk responses that just add to the chaos, we can seek healing, peace, and justice in creative ways. "We love because God first loved us" (1 John 4:19 GNT).
Photo credit: "Governor Wolf Attends Community Vigil for the Victims of the Orlando Shooting" by governortomwolf is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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